George Weasley sat in his place at the kitchen table. The chair to his left had been empty for two days.
His family was around somewhere. Some were in the room, and some were not. He was fairly sure that one or another of them had been with him night and day since he had been coaxed out of the castle, but he could not bring himself to keep track of them all. He was certain that they were all there, though. Almost.
There was food in front of him. He might have eaten some of it, because it was stirred about on the plate, but he was not sure. Either way, it had been there for a while.
A soft knock on the back door made George look up. His mother, still carrying a flannel, crossed the room to open the door. She blocked his view of the unexpected guest, but when she backed into the room with an absent wave of invitation, he saw Angelina step hesitantly into the house.
He had called her Angel, but no one else had been allowed to, not even George.
She was still tall, mahogany-dark, and unconsciously regal, but the red in her eyes was new and stood out sharply. Her arms twitched at her sides when their eyes met, catching George’s attention, as though she wanted to reach for something.
“Hello, dear,” his mother said in a low voice. “How nice to see you. Would you like some tea?”
She shook her head, a spasm of movement, and a moment later she spoke. “No, thank you.” Her voice had always been surprisingly low and rich, but today it was a grating rasp.
George’s mother nodded. “Would you like to sit down, then?”
“No, thank you.”
Angelina’s entrance had stilled the silent room, and suddenly George realised that it was his father, Percy, and Charlie who were also in the kitchen. When he looked back at his mother, he found her staring at the quivering young woman with a look of patience and commiseration. “Well, dear, make yourself at home however you’d like.”
“Thank you. Err…” Angelina said. She swallowed visibly. “I just wanted… I thought…” She wiped the back of one shaking hand over her eyes and took a deep breath. “I don’t know how much Fred –”
How could she bear to say his name?
“– told you about… about us. We were… you know… on and off for a while.” Her body hitched, and her lips twisted ever so slightly. “Mostly because I couldn’t get him to be serious for more than half a minute at a time.”
She had almost laughed. A moment later, George remembered that he almost had, too.
“Then, well… we realised we’d been on for a long time. So we talked about it, right, and we… we decided we weren’t going to be off again.”
She was crying again, tears dripping from her chin, but she made no effort to wipe them away. Instead, she hugged herself tightly, the muscles in her arms standing out in the bright kitchen.
“We were going to get married,” she said, choking out the words.
George’s mother gasped, raising a hand to her mouth. He wondered, for a moment, why he had never been told. Almost in the same thought, he realised that he had already known.
“After the war, you know?” Angelina said, sobbing between every few words. “We didn’t tell anyone. We just… we knew it was going to happen. And now… I wanted to… I just needed…”
And George knew. He pushed roughly against the table and rose to his feet. Rushing across the kitchen, he stepped around his frozen mother and put his arms around his friend’s shuddering shoulders.
Her arms were trapped between their bodies for a moment, but then she wrapped them around his waist and let her chin rest on his shoulder. She stopped trying to talk and simply cried.
Her tears were not elegant or delicate or pretty. She howled into George’s good ear, and he squeezed her shoulders tightly as her body shook. He felt her knees buckle, but he braced himself and held her upright. When he felt moisture on his other cheek, he realised that he was crying, too.
He knew that he had cried before, but somehow it had not been the same. Before, he had cried because his mind and body had not known what else to do. Now, he cried because he had lost something irreplaceable and he missed it terribly. He heard a low keening and realised that it was coming from his own throat.
They stood that way for a few immeasurable minutes. Very slowly, Angelina’s cries grew softer, until finally she was only whimpering in his ear. A moment later, she spoke in an agonized whisper. “I loved him so much.”
“I know, Angie,” George whispered back, his voice catching. “I did, too.”
He felt a strong, supportive hand settle on his free shoulder. Opening his damp eyes, he saw Percy standing to his right but keeping a respectful distance. His brother’s eyes shone with mourning and sympathy. George’s parents stood on his other side, leaning into each other. His mother was weeping freely and twisting the flannel in her hands. Looking ahead through the still-open door, he could barely see the bench at the back of the garden. Above it, he could make out two heads, one red and one black, so close together that the colours mingled seamlessly in his vision.
George moved his hands to Angelina’s arms and backed away from her a few inches. She looked up at him and dropped her hands from his waist, her fear and confusion obvious. He met her dark eyes and squeezed her arms reassuringly.
“I think…” he began, looking over at his parents. “Before too long, our only Weasley girl won’t be a Weasley anymore. I think we might need a substitute now and then, you know?”
His father nodded immediately. “Good thinking, George,” he said. “You’re welcome here any time, day or night, Angelina.”
“We’d love to have you,” his mother added through her tears.
Angelina sobbed again and looked around the kitchen. “Thank you. Thank you all so much. You don’t know how much…” She closed her eyes for a moment and took another deep breath. “Thank you, but… that’s not all.
“Fred always said… he said he wasn’t going to let a little thing like war stop us having fun.” She looked up at George with a tremulous smile, and he nodded in response to the achingly familiar words.
Angelina’s arms rose once again to wrap around her waist. “I’m pregnant.”
The kitchen was silent, and George’s hands tightened slightly on her shoulders. His conscious thoughts froze, but he suddenly felt a tremendous sense of gratitude towards his old friend.
“You don’t have to do anything,” she continued in a small voice. “My family and I will take care of everything. I just… I thought you should know.”
“Really?” George’s mother said, her voice soft and full of something that almost sounded like hope.
Angelina nodded. “I only found out when Madam Pomfrey checked me over after… the other day.”
The older woman took a step forward and pulled Angelina out of George’s grasp. His mother hugged her tightly, her hair barely visible over the tall girl’s shoulder, and whispered, “Thank you.” After a moment, the two separated, and George could see a smile shining through his mother’s fresh tears. “This is the most wonderful news, dear.”
The meaning finally sunk in. He found himself staring at her stomach, which looked just as it always had. And yet… now it was so much more. Now it was something incredible. Something he could hardly accept as real. Could it truly be possible to feel such a pervasive excitement on this day?
George gently tugged Angelina’s arm until she faced him again. “You’re serious? You’re going to have Fred’s…” He could not finish the sentence. If she had somehow picked up his brother’s knack for the most inappropriate jokes at the worst times…
A bittersweet smile appeared on her lips. “Yeah.”
George felt the blood begin to pump more quickly through his veins, and the feeling was almost foreign. Would the baby have red hair? Was it possible for someone to have such dark skin and blue eyes at the same time?
He leaned forward and hugged her again, squeezing as lightly as he could manage and making sure he did not even come close to touching her torso. She slid her arms up between their bodies and put them around his neck, pulling him closer. “I’m not made of glass, you idiot,” she muttered, a laugh barely sputtering in her voice.
George released her and straightened his back, feeling the joints creak and the muscles stretch. He caught her eye and watched as the tiny glimmer of mirth faded from her gaze. The pleasure remained, but it was a muted, treasured thing. “I’ll be there, all right?” he said. “Every day. He would’ve…”
She stared at him silently for a long moment, and her eyes bored into his. George realised that she was trying to see his face instead of his brother’s, just as he had been trying each time he was forced to walk past a mirror. He had grown to be almost thankful for the loss of his ear.
At last, Angelina nodded gravely. “All right, George.”
He took a deep breath and nodded. Fred’s son would never want for anything George could provide, whether that was new clothes, the latest broomstick, or endless stories of his unforgettable father. George would teach him how to make a joke the Weasley way. George would be there to show this child exactly who he was. Almost.
A/N: I wrote this shortly after DH was released, and it has taken a while to make its way from my hard drive to posting. After reading the seventh book, and particularly the epilogue, there were several things I felt were missing. Of them all, the one thing that I really wanted to see was some indication that George had managed (or could someday manage) to pull his life together. So, in the true spirit of fanfic, I wrote my own.
Thanks to Chreechree, Jonathan Avery, moshpit, regdc, Parakletos, and Sherylyn for their beta help.